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Dockers want Harley Bennell to play just like Cyril Rioli

Harley Bennell will be used in a Cyril Rioli-style role, playing forward and pinch-hitting in the midfield if he recovers from his calf problems to play this year, according to Ross Lyon.

Fremantle’s coach admitted the club was “holding our breath” for Bennell as he ramped up his running program after being treated by German specialist Hans-Wilhelm Muller-Wohlfahrt.

In an interview with The Weekend West, Lyon also:

– Rated Aaron Sandilands still at or near his peak and predicted he could play beyond this year.

– Was not concerned about Nat Fyfe’s contract status, and said he took Fyfe at his word that he saw his future at Fremantle.

– Predicted a return to an unconditional effort-based game plan in 2017. He had been told by players that he had not been hard enough on them last year and they had drifted away from their trademark.

– Predicted young ruckman Sean Darcy would compete strongly if required to play in 2017. The club’s top draft pick Griffin Logue had shown promise in his JLT Community Series game, but needed to be trained to the intensity and pace of an AFL environment.

Lyon said the Dockers were hopeful of an early-season return for Bennell, but it was an anxious wait as he increased his training. The club was looking at a return to Peel in the early rounds of the season, but Lyon did not want to put a specific time on the comeback.

Only six AFL players will earn more than $1 million this year.

“He is high-end sprinting,” Lyon said.

“He is feeling really good. From here it is just about volume of sprinting now.

“It is as confident as we have been in his body, but we are still jumping a few hurdles.

“In a sense we are holding our breath. He is so explosive that the calf gets challenged when you are hitting these speed zones.”

The Dockers want Bennell to be a midfielder eventually, but he isn’t conditioned to play exclusively there this year.

Cyril Rioli’s skill set changes games, and saw him take out the 2015 Norm Smith Medal.
Cyril Rioli’s skill set changes games, and saw him take out the 2015 Norm Smith Medal.Picture: Getty Images

“He is an offensive threat. Like Rioli he can play deep and go for spurts on the ball,” Lyon said.

“That is what we envisage with Harley. He can play close to goal and he can free up Fyfe to go forward for periods by going midfield for five or six minutes.”

Lyon was glowing of how Sandilands had fought back from a serious rib injury. “He just comes and works and he is low maintenance,” he said. “We just want him to keep playing.”

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